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by Jeanne Lee, AARP The Magazine, September/October 2010 issue
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Buy a "dark horse"
When shopping for a new or used car, buyers often gravitate to the most popular makes and models. But you can save thousands of dollars by choosing a "dark horse." That’s the moniker the auto website Edmunds.com gives to less popular models. If you’re considering a Honda Accord, for example, check out the similarly equipped Suzuki Kizashi for about 10 percent less. The concept will save you even more with used cars, says Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Edmunds.com.
Seek out secret warranties
Car repairs can make a huge dent in your bank account. But sometimes you can qualify for a free fix known as a secret warranty. This is when a manufacturer knows about a car defect and quietly has dealers do free repairs—when a customer complains. Search the Internet for your model and year, plus the defect, or look for "technical service bulletins" on websites such as autosafety.org or CarComplaints.com.
Make dealers compete
Want an easy way to save $5,000 in 10 minutes? Once you’ve decided on a model, get multiple dealer quotes and start a bidding war. Fax a request to five or six dealers asking, "What’s your best price on this?"
Steer toward shorter loans
Dealers may push you toward a four- or five-year loan that lowers your monthly payment—and earns them more interest. Resist the temptation. "If you can’t pay cash," says Leamy, "limit your loan to two years, even if that means you have to buy a less expensive car."
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